The highs and lows of being a professional artist

Jane Hunter Artist Sketching

Strap in. It's a rollercoaster ride.

This blog post has been instigated due to a costly mistake in pricing my work.


We're only two months into the year and already there have been more ups and downs than a kid on a trampoline.

High: I'm gonna be in a book.

Low: Holy shit, I'm gonna be in a book.

High: I have a new exhibition opening soon.

Low: I have a new exhibition opening SOON.

High: I'm learning new things and responding to my findings by making new work.

Low: Is the work any good? Will people think I'm mental?

High: A number of people are asking to buy a particular piece I made last year.

Low: I'm not sure whether I should sell it.

High: I've spent the past few months working on this new body of work.

Low: It has cost a lot of money which I don't know if I'll ever make back.

High: Friday - I think this new work is pretty cool, and it's almost ready to show.

Low: Saturday - Will I be ready for this show?

High: A corporate client is buying a number of pieces.

Low: I have made a big mistake with the quote which will cost hundreds of pounds.


Here we are. One week before Julie and I have to deliver our work to the gallery and I'm questioning myself. I know it's just one of those low days and I'll probably be on top of the world again shortly. But, then something stupid messes with my brain and everything feels like a total disaster.

I learned today that I have inadvertently selected a framing option for my corporate client which is THREE TIMES more expensive than I budgeted for in the quote.

It was only yesterday (one of the good days) that I was giving advice to a fellow artist about quoting for corporate work. I feel like a prize melon today.

Just to be clear, my picture framer is amazing. They have always done an excellent job, offer great advice, deliver to time, and give me a generous discount because I take all my work to them. I simply picked a moulding that is triple the price of the one I had quoted on. 

The work will look so much better in this frame than the cheaper one. I know the client will be thrilled to see their artwork shown off in the best light.

Here is the dilemma: I can't change it now. The picture framer has done the work to my specification and has already given me a very generous discount. But despite this, it will cost me hundreds of pounds more than I have quoted the client.

What would you do?

I guess I have a few options:

  • Say nothing, and absorb the cost myself? (ouch!)
  • Tell the client and risk them feeling aggrieved at the additional cost, never working with me again, or cancelling the order? (double ouch!)
  • Let the client know about the mistake and how I'll be bearing the extra cost? Perhaps standing me in good stead for any future work with them (at the same time making them aware that future framing prices could be significantly more expensive).


Don't worry. All will be fine. Without the lows, we can't really appreciate the highs. Wow, there are some amazing highs up there...and it's only March!!

Bring on the rest of the year.



  • Louise

    Honesty for me, every day of the week. What you may lose financially will be repaid tenfold with this and other clients’ apprecation of you as the talented artist that you are. The extra that you bring to the relationship in honesty, integrity and quality won’t go unnoticed. Trust your judgement but most of all trust and believe in your talent ?

  • Cathy

    I think communication is the key and so I’d go with telling them about the mistake too. By being honest there will be no future surprises if they come back for more work and who knows, they might offer to absorb some of the cost.

    Thanks for this post, I found it very helpful

  • lilith

    ouch indeed! i think being honest about mistakes and offering to cover it yourself is always best. i definitely made a couple of big (& costly!) ones with the new book just out of sheer ignorance, but people definitely appreciate it if you’re honest about your cockups and will sometimes find a way to meet you halfway.

  • clémentine monnier

    I’ve been a business owner myself (for 3 years, before steadying and becoming a teacher), and during those years I’ve made so much mistakes, especially in quoting. Because sometimes you “just” double check. working on your own is such a pleasure but you can feel lonely as well sometimes.
    If I had to choose, I would definitely choose the option 3. They will know that you’ve made a mistake (that’s not cool and not professional), but that you will absorbe the cost (very classy). And maybe, with a big M, they will ask if they can do something to help or pay a little more (Yes I think there is something good in each and everyone of us :) )

  • Anne Hunter

    Def. option 3. All experience is good experience xx (Glen and I always seem of one accord!)

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